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In our opinion: Pot dispensary discussion not the councils finest hour

Vitriol among council and mayor, one-sided testimony, doesnt serve the public well


There is a certain expectation of decorum we expect from elected officials. In the face of controversy, representatives of the people should remain calm, collected and thoughtful.

But at the March 17 Newberg City Council meeting, this expectation wasn’t met, and what was intended to be a logical discussion turned into an ideological debate.

In February, the council was slated to discuss the potential banning of medical marijuana dispensaries in Newberg, but decided to pass on the issue. Newberg Police Chief Brian Casey asked the council to revisit, so the issue was added at the last minute to the March 17 agenda.March 26 editorial

Joined by Casey, Yamhill County District Attorney Brad Berry made an hour-long presentation against medical marijuana, dispensaries and the people who might use them. The information was one-sided and, as Councilor Bart Rierson accurately noted, bordering on “Reefer Madness,” a reference to the 1930s anti-marijuana propaganda film. While the lack of thoughtful discussion of the issue was upsetting, more so was the attitude and personal actions by members of the council and those making presentations.

Although labeled as a “discussion,” what took place during the almost two-hour hearing was anything but. When Councilor Ryan Howard interjected a few times during the presentation to ask an opposing question, or question the information being presented as an absolute, he was often met with hostility. The worst example of behavior perhaps came from Councilor Stephen McKinney. At one point, in response to a question posed by Howard, McKinney turned to shouting as a way to get his opinion across.

“People know where you stand on this, they need to know where I stand on this,” McKinney said. “You’re 100 percent wrong if you’re promoting the use of marijuana in this particular community in whatever way.”

While some councilors tried to approach the heated topic with dispassion and logic, the system appeared to fail overall due to a clear bias against marijuana in any form, despite Oregon law allowing medical marijuana and efforts in the works to legalize the drug for recreational use.

There’s a right way to approach controversial issues in government, and it doesn’t involve seeing who can yell loudest. Even in the face of what is clearly a polarizing issue, what took place at this meeting was shameful.

We expect better from those elected to represent us. At the very least, they must have the ability to distance themselves from their beliefs and make decisions with a logical approach.




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